Stingrays are found all over the world in many of the coastal tropical and subtropical marine waters, with some species even being found in the deep ocean.
For this reason, they are often encountered by humans near beaches, harbors, and out at sea.
Today, we’re going to answer a question that many are eager to learn the answer to as the stingray’s reputation is often misunderstood. Are stingrays dangerous?
Yes, stingrays can be dangerous as they can sting you. However, they are not interested in stinging humans purposefully as they eat mostly worms, clams, oysters, snails, and shrimps.
Are Stingrays Actually Dangerous?
Whilst stingrays do have a stinger that is capable of causing serious harm to a human, they are generally not very dangerous and actually have a reputation for being gentle around humans.
Stingrays will usually only sting when they are disturbed or stepped on by unaware swimmers whilst they are buried in the sand.
Their stinger is not used to hunt prey but instead to fight off predators such as sharks, seals, and killer whales.
They have a whip-like tail that is armed with a barb that they will lash towards a predator, and if the stinger connects, toxic venom will begin releasing into the predator.
Human attacks from stingrays are incredibly rare and are almost exclusively a form of self-defense by being stepped on or threatened.
Do Stingrays Kill Humans?
In 2006, whilst filming a documentary in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Steve Irwin died after an accidental attack by a stingray.
This tragic accident was all over mainstream media and has caused many people to be terrified of stingrays ever since.
However, this was an accident, and the barb that stung Irwin pierced him in the chest, penetrating his thoracic wall, and causing internal trauma.
This is a very rare type of attack, as most people are usually stung in their legs from accidentally stepping on a stingray that is buried in the sand.
There have only ever been 17 recorded fatalities caused by stingrays worldwide, ever.
Statistically speaking you’re way more likely to be killed by a vending machine than you are from a stingray.
Yes, stingrays do sting people that accidentally step on them as a form of self-defense. But most stings happen in the legs and can be treated.
The deaths that are attributed to stingrays are often by barbs being stuck into a human’s chest, neck, throat, or abdomen, which usually occurs when swimming above a stingray and they strike upwards.
This is why it’s super important never to swim directly above a stingray.
Is It Safe To Swim Around Stingrays?
Contrary to what many believe, it is relatively safe to swim around stingrays in the wild. They are passive creatures that are not interested in causing us any harm.
So long as you treat the stingrays with respect by giving them space and ensuring that you do NOT swim directly above them, swimming with stingrays is relatively safe.
That said if you are inexperienced and not on a tour with professionals, it’s advised that you avoid stingrays whilst diving or snorkeling to be on the safe side.
As with all wild animals, they can be unpredictable at times, and being stung by a stingray out at sea could be a disaster for everyone involved.
However, there is certainly no need to panic around stingrays if you do find yourself in a situation with them.
They are passive, non-aggressive animals that have no interest in harming people.
What To Do If A Stingray Approaches You
Divers and snorkelers often come into contact with stingrays whilst out in the ocean, so it’s important to be aware of the code of conduct in case you happen to find yourself around wild stingrays.
- Always maintain a safe distance of around three meters.
- Don’t make any sudden movements that could startle the stingrays or cause them to panic.
- Avoid flash photography.
- Ensure that you do not crowd a stingray or swim above it, you don’t want the ray to feel trapped or enclosed.
- Avoid touching the seafloor – remember that there could be other stingrays nesting beneath the sand.
- Never reach out to try and touch a stingray, this can not only startle them but cause harm by removing the protective film on their skin, leaving them open to harmful bacteria.
Is It Safe To Touch A Stingray?
Stingrays that you may find in outdoor exhibits often have their barbs clipped so that they are unable to sting a human.
Many exhibits offer stingray attractions that allow people to get up close and personal with rays making for an incredible experience.
However, it’s important to note that these rays are used to being around humans and also have their barbs clipped, making them unable to harm a human even if they wanted to.
Wild stingrays do not have their barbs clipped and do not have the same level of familiarity with humans as these rays.
It is NEVER safe to touch a wild stingray, as this could be seen as provoking the ray and making them intimidated, which could cause an attack.
Not only that but stingrays are covered in epidermal mucous which protects them from harmful bacteria and helps to accelerate the healing process of any wounds they may have.
Touching a stingray can remove this mucous, meaning it leaves the ray exposed to bacteria and can cause them to become infected and even result in death.
So, are stingrays dangerous? Yes, they can be. However, stingrays are passive, non-aggressive animals that have no interest in causing harm to humans.
They typically only sting humans out of self-defense when accidentally stepped on whilst they are buried beneath the sand.
With only 17 total fatalities to humans, this shows that they are clearly not interested in stinging us on purpose, and even when they do it’s often a sting in the leg that can be treated.
That said, it’s always important to treat these animals with the respect they deserve. They are wild animals that can sometimes be unpredictable, so always give them space and be wary.
I hope that you have enjoyed learning more about stingrays and how to conduct yourself around these beautiful creatures.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post and feel free to share it with others who may find it useful.
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Hi, I’m George – the founder of MarinePatch. I created this blog as marine wildlife has been my passion for many years and I’ve spent decades learning and dedicating myself to documenting all I can about the topic.